Day 2 of Spartan Games™, presented by Harley-Davidson, blended functional fitness and extreme endurance. The first event was DEKA STRONG, followed by the La Ruta Mountain Bike Challenge. In this action-packed episode, world records were set, tensions flared, fears were overcome, and a husband and wife had a dream finish.
These were the five craziest moments from Spartan Games, Episode 2. (You can watch the full episode, in its entirety, above. Episode 3 will air on Wednesday. Dec. 16, only on Spartan's YouTube channel.)
Shattering World Records
In an epic back-and-forth battle during the DEKA STRONG event, 2013 CrossFit World Champion Sam Briggs, 38 — admittedly on the back nine of her illustrious career — edged Spartan pro Corinna Coffin. In the process, Briggs (13:35) set a new DEKA STRONG world record and reminded everyone at the Games that, despite the fact that she's closing in on 40, she's still as dangerous as anyone in the field.
How incredible were the DEKA STRONG performances on the women's side? The top three finishers broke the previous world record. Following Briggs and Coffin (14:05) was Faith Cooke (14:13), all of whom broke the previous women's record of 14:21, set by Taylor Loyd.
Three of the men also set new world records. Hunter McIntyre (11:59), Herman Demmink (12:27), and Ryan Kent (12:39) broke the men's world record (12:42) — previously held by Ryan Corning — and Ryan Atkins tied it.
One thing that really stood out at the Spartan Games was the sense of camaraderie and community among the athletes, despite everything that was at stake. These are 24 of the fiercest competitors on the planet, and they're battling for bragging rights and a share of $100,000. Yet even when they're trying to beat each other — which they're constantly trying to do — they can't help but show support.
Take ultra-marathoner Mike Wardian, whose endurance background was not well-suited for the DEKA STRONG event. He predictably struggled, finishing in last place by a significant margin. As he powered through the end of the final zone, the entire field of participants rallied behind him, yelling words of encouragement and helping him push past his breaking point.
Grant McCartney, in particular, played the role of personal coach and cheerleader, coming within inches of him and advising him to "pop the hips!" After completing his final rep, everyone on hand erupted.
"It feels good to have as much support as I did from everyone," a visibly exhausted and relieved Wardian reflected. "...I couldn't have gotten it done without everyone supporting me and helping me and coaching me. That's what I love about these events. You become quick friends with people and support everyone else."
'You Guys SCREWED Me'
The La Ruta Mountain Bike Challenge was rough on everyone, from the novices to the professionals (and both ends of the spectrum were represented). Riding on an 8.5-mile loop, the athletes had to complete as many laps as possible in five hours. The terrain was rough, and nearly every athlete on hand voiced their displeasure with the difficult, non-technical nature of it. For most of them, it was far rougher, rockier, and more challenging than they had anticipated.
No athlete was more frustrated — at least outwardly — than triathlete Max Fennell, who launched into a spirited tirade.
"You guys SCREWED me," Fennell yelled as he awkwardly walked his bike downhill. "What the f***, man? You guys said non-technical, and this sh** is straight-up f***ing technical, and I'm in f***ing road shoes. Allow me to freaking prepare myself, and not try and f***ing twist my knee! Being a pro is when you can properly prepare.
"...You guys said rolling hills, non-technical. This is straight-up you're going to die."
The Million Dollar Mile defender finished in fifth place.
'The Scariest Thing I've Ever Done'
Spartan pro Ryan Kent wasn't angry or frustrated with the bike challenge. He was downright scared.
Claiming it was the first time he was ever on a mountain bike, the OCR veteran was shellshocked in the post-race interview.
"That was the scariest thing I've ever done," Kent said, his voice trembling. "I never mountain bike. I don't know, it's like a fear thing for me. But through competition, you have to overcome those fears, or else you're just gonna be stuck out there. I'm proud of myself for overcoming my fears."
Despite his inexperience and trepidation, Kent — who has the third-most Spartan victories of all-time — stunningly finished in fourth place in one of the gutsiest, most surprising results at the Games.
Familiar Faces Finish First
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Though they were overshadowed in the strength events — in many cases by non-OCR athletes — Spartan's two most dominant racers righted the ship in the bike challenge and returned to where we are most used to seeing them: at the finish line, ahead of everybody else. Atkins and his wife, Lindsay Webster, each finished in first and ended Day 2 of the Spartan Games on a strong note.
"Ryan Atkins is the athlete that, growing up, you're like, 'How does he do this over and over?'" Spartan VP of Production Mike Morris said. "...He is just one of these insanely genetically-gifted people who will always perform at whatever he does."
With the Games at its midway point, Atkins (78 points) leads second-place McIntyre (72) on the men's side, and Coffin (72) narrowly leads second-place Webster (70).
Next up, on Episode 3: wrestling(!) and an Ultra trail marathon. Stay tuned.